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My cat won't drink water, what should I do?

It's essential for our pets to stay hydrated, so what should you do if your cat won't drink water? Our vets in Baltimore list some reasons why your cat may not be drinking and what you to do next. 

Why won't my cat drink water?

To stay healthy, all animals need to stay hydrated. Animals generally drink when they are thirsty, and different animals will need different amounts of water to remain hydrated. So while your cat may not appear to be drinking much, they may be getting enough water. 

While dogs will often drink large quantities of water at once, cats are more likely to drink very small amounts at one time. 

Dogs also need much more water per kilogram than cats do, meaning that your cat may not need to drink as much water as you might predict. 

If your cat has a dry food diet, they'll need more water than a kitty that eats fresh or canned foods. For each ounce of dry food, cats typically drink about one ounce of water. Contrast this with cats that eat wet foods - they'll drink considerably less since they get much of their hydration from their food. 

That said, you might be right - perhaps your cat isn't drinking enough water. If your cat won't drink water, the location of the bowl, an underlying health condition or the cleanliness of the water may be potential reasons why your cat isn't drinking enough. 

Signs That Your Cat May Be Dehydrated

Dehydration can seriously threaten your cat's health. Cats that don't drink enough water may quickly become dehydrated. There are a few ways to check whether your cat may be dehydrated. 

  • Skin Elasticity - Gently pinch the extra skin between your cat's shoulder blades to form a tent-like shape to check its elasticity. Once you let go, watch to see whether your kitty's skin snaps back to normal in less than a second. If this doesn't occur, your kitty may be dehydrated. 
  • Dry Mouth - Look at your cat's gums - are they pink and moist? Press your finger against your cat's gums and check whether the pressed spot turns white. If they don't return to a healthy pink color within one to two seconds of removing your finger, your cat may be dehydrated. 
  • Sunken Eyes - Look into your cat's yes - do they seem to lack focus or do they appear dull or sunken? This may point to dehydration. 
  • Constipation - Do a litter box check. When cats are dehydrated they often become constipated. If your cat hasn't been passing as much stool as they usually do, dehydration may be to blame.
  • Panting - Unlike dogs, cats don't often pant. If your feline friend is panting they may be dehydrated.

If your cat is showing signs of dehydration contact your vet right away. Dehydration in cats can be fatal, and once the symptoms above become evident your cat is likely to be severely dehydrated and in need of emergency veterinary care.

How to Hydrate a Cat That Won't Drink Water

If you are concerned that your cat isn't drinking enough water, but they are not showing any of the symptoms above there are a few things you can try to increase your cat's water consumption.

  • Ensure that your cat's water bowl is not near their litter box. If it is, move it to a better spot in the room or a different room altogether.
  • Provide fresh water daily. Many cats will not drink water that has been sitting for an extended period.
  • Try moving the bowl to a different location (even if it's not near the litter box).
  • Try a different bowl or a bowl that provides running water for cats to enjoy.
  • If your cat eats dry food switch to canned.

Serious Health Conditions Linked To Dehydration in Cats

Contact your vet right away if you believe that your cat isn't drinking enough water. Dehydration can be an indication of a serious underlying condition such as kidney disease, heatstroke, or diabetes. When it comes to your cat's health it is always best to err on the side of caution.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned that your cat isn't drinking enough water? Contact our Baltimore vets right away to book an examination for your kitty.

Caring for Pets in Baltimore

Falls Road Animal Hospital accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

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